Last week I had the wonderful opportunity to fly to the Azores for a long weekend from my home city of Lisbon. I booked the return flights last minute and I really had no idea what to expect of either Azores Airlines or the Azores itself. After telling family members I was off the the Azores, not many of them actually knew where they were…
The Azores is a tiny collection of volcanic islands and are part of Portugal. They sit directly in the middle of the Atlantic, 1,000 miles from Lisbon and around 1,200 miles from Newfoundland, Canada. The islands have a subtropical climate, and the temperature stays between 15 and 25 degrees C all year round.
Azores Airlines is a small airline based in the main capital of the Azores, Ponta Delgada. They historically had an ageing fleet of 737’s and A310’s, but in the past year the airline has gone through a huge facelift. They now operate two brand new A321neo’s and three Airbus A320’s, and will have four Airbus A321LR’s delivered during 2019.
The Airline operates routes around the Azores itself, as well as to mainland Portugal and to a handful of destinations in the US and Canada. I expect that, once the airline receives their A321LR, we could see more routes being operated to the US with the Azores becoming a ‘stopover’ similar to Iceland.
The pre-departure experience:
I arrived at Lisbon Portela Airport two hours before departure. Check in for the flight was a complete breeze; I was the only person in the queue and, thanks to flying business class, I had access to fast track security. From arriving at the airport to sitting in the lounge took only around five minutes.
I was a little confused when it came to accessing a lounge. On the Azores Airlines website it said business class passengers could access the Blue Lounge in Lisbon (this lounge is known for being rather bad). I couldn’t actually find the Blue Lounge so instead I walked up to the ZNZ lounge (also named ANA lounge) and to my surprise they accepted Azores Airlines passengers.
The lounge was lovely, perhaps in the top five I have ever visited. It seemed brand new and had stunning airside views. There were snacks, drinks, very comfortable seats and showers.
I left boarding the aircraft to the very last minute. Unfortunately, boarding was by bus as the aircraft was on a remote stand. Boarding was very slow and the bus waited outside the plane for a good five minutes before we were even allowed to board.
My first impressions of the aircraft were ‘wow’! It looked brand new and it had that amazing new plane smell. The business class configuration was 2-2, which is rare for business class in Europe these days. So far, I was impressed!
After settling down, the friendly cabin crew arrived with a pillow and blanket. This was unexpected as it was only a two hour flight. There was no pre-takeoff drink which was a shame; this would have made the experience nicer.
After takeoff I got settled into my seat, it was wide and had very good legroom and recline.
Approximately 20 minutes after take off a drink was served with nuts. I opted for a glass of white wine.
Just 45 minutes after takeoff a warm meal was served; a Portuguese cod tart, pastel de nata and fruit. It was really tasty.
The service on the flight was impeccable, the cabin crew were amazing and they kept on passing through the cabin offering drink refills. There was a total of two cabin crew for 16 business class seats, and the cabin was around half full. So to have 1 cabin crew member per four passengers was great!
For a small airline the entertainment offerings were okay. Similar to Norwegian, you can connect to free in flight wifi and watch a few TV shows/movies and also see a flight map. There were around 10 things to watch overall, not brilliant but also not bad for a two hour flight.
After a short hour and 30 minutes, we began our descent into Ponta Delgada. It was amazing to see land and lights after nothing but ocean for the entire trip. Landing in the Azores felt very similar to my landing in Tahiti last year.
The last two minutes of the descent felt very steep, but I think this is just a quirk with the A321neo.
Upon landing, within 10 minutes I was through the tiny terminal, hold luggage collected and on my way to explore the Azores!